A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld the Miami trial conviction of an elderly Muslim cleric who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for sending tens of thousands of dollars overseas to finance the Pakistani Taliban. The U.S.-designated terrorist group had launched numerous violent attacks against both Pakistan's government and American targets.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the jury's conviction of Hafiz Khan, 80, on four terrorism support-related charges in 2013. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, who called the evidence "overwhelmingly clear."
The case against Khan, an imam at a Miami mosque before his 2011 arrest, was built on hundreds of FBI recordings of both telephone calls and Khan's face-to-face conversations with an undercover informant. In the calls, Khan discussed details of numerous wire transfers to Pakistan over a three-year period that totaled about $50,000.
Khan also was overheard praising deadly attacks by the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, including a 2009 bombing at a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan. In another call, Khan was heard wishing for the deaths of 50,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
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In his appeal, Khan's lawyers claimed the judge erred three times at trial, including allowing a U.S. government translator to add certain words to translations of intercepted phone calls and permitting an FBI agent to testify as an expert witness. Khan also claimed Scola abused his discretion when he denied a trial continuance after an Internet connection supporting a live video feed of defense witnesses from Pakistan failed.
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which noted that the 29-day trial in Miami was “challenging,” rejected the defense claims.